GWL Advertising, a women-owned Little Rock firm celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2023, has called on its branding expertise to rebrand itself.
Meet Agency GWL, a creative and marketing firm that owners Christy Vandergriff and Julie Barnett say is kicking off a new chapter with the new name, a new logo and an expanded variety of work.
“Advertising” in the name seemed a “little dated,” co-owner Christy Vandergriff told Arkansas Business on Monday. But she and Barnett wanted to keep GWL, the initials of the man they bought the agency from three years ago, Gary W. Lay.
“Since then we weathered a pandemic, we really diversified our services,” said Vandergriff, the company’s president and creative director. “GWL really represented one person, but we wanted to keep the name because of the integrity and reputation it represents.”
“Agency GWL,” she said, puts the group effort emphasis first. “We wanted to come up with a name that was more encompassing of the collective of who we are as GWL now, because we’re a much different style of agency. And we have so many talents here.”
The marketing firm now has about 26 employees, she said.
“We're a branding agency, media placement agency, digital agency, website, PR, event marketing,” Vandergriff said. “You know, we do all those things.” Advertising didn’t tell the whole story, she said.
The agency website already reflected the change, and Vandergriff said the 30th anniversary offered a great opportunity to make the change. The new website domain is www.agencygwl.com.
“We’re going to do a lot of things internally to kick off the anniversary. So we thought it was a great time, especially since we are a branding and marketing agency, to tie it all together.”
The agency has long been associated with the automotive sales industry, and those clients are still very important, Barnett said. But since the COVID-19 epidemic struck, she said, business has been different.
“I think that has kind of rolled into why we are wanting to update our name and give it that refresh,” said Barnett, the agency’s vice president and account director. “Business has been different, but good. And honestly one of the positives of the pandemic is that it gave us a good excuse to expand our services and our segments. GWL as a whole has been thought of as an automotive agency in the past, but we’ve expanded into segments like the State Fair, the Clinton Presidential Center, Molly Maids and Rio Agave Ranch water.
“We’re working with several colleges and Walmart vendors for in-store signage, and we have even expanded internationally,” Barnett said. “We have a client that has a point in Italy and in North Little Rock. So that’s all been exciting.”
Diversification was a goal even before the pandemic, she said. “And now that our automobile dealers see that the inventory is coming back, they’re kind of hitting the gas again, too,” Barnett added. “So we see 2023 as one that’s going to be a really great year. Clients are needing more services than ever. They're not just needing traditional or just digital or just the brand package, they are kind of needing the whole package. So we've been adapting and delivering more on those fronts as well.”
The company has nearly 58 clients in 14 industries across 18 states, said Dan Sawyer, senior director of accounts and new business. As Vandergriff put it, “We are not just an advertising agency anymore.”
Vandergriff and Barnett both worked for Lay for years before buying the firm from the founder in October 2019. Founded in 1993, Agency GWL is a sister company to See Spot Run Production Studios, an on-site production house that offers HD video, television and radio commercials, animation, shooting, editing, and on-location or in-studio photography.
“I do think it's important that we are a truly women-owned and women-led agency, right?” Vandergriff said. “We're 100% women owned. And that is from the top down how we work, how we work with our clients, and how we work with our team members. That's a big deal to us.”
For the anniversary, agency members have come up with an idea they call 30 acts of kindness, “focusing on giving back to the community, clients and organizations through charitable contributions, food drives and pro-bono projects.
Vandergriff said the agency has always reached out, “but this is going to be a more organized effort.
“Whether it’s donating to an animal shelter or to Children’s Hospital, or just delivering doughnuts to people in our building, these acts of kindness are going to be important to us,” Vandergriff said.
Sawyer said Barnett and Vandergriff “are attracting young new talent in the industry, as well as attracting the veterans who have expertise in many, many fields. So that's what really is the new direction of this firm. It's kind of a great conglomeration of dream teams.”